The first invincibles of Serie A
On 16 December 1899, English expatriates Herbert Kilpin and Alfred Edwards in Italy founded AC Milan. Initially, the club was called Milan Football and Cricket – but football pretty soon became the favored sport of its founders and the club rebranded itself to Milan FC in the year 1919. However, even before it changed its name to its current form, AC Milan was already collecting silverware in Italy.
Only two years after the club’s founding, the Rossoneri built its reputation by winning the first Scudetto in its history. The club didn’t stop there and went on to win two more Scudetto titles in the first decade of its birth. From there on, however, the club’s fortunes went downhill as some of its players split from AC Milan to form the club’s fiercest rival, Inter.
That split wasn’t kind to Milan as it resulted in the club losing several of its key players. Such a loss would be unbearable for established sides, let alone for a club like Milan which was in the first decade of its existence when internal frictions carved into two. That split cost the club dearly as it would have to wait for more than four decades to lay its claim to yet another silverware.
The decades following the side’s 1951 Scudetto title were kind to the Italian giants. Milan, which had been trying for the previous four decades to get back its lost glory in Serie A, burst onto the European stage in the late 50s and the early 60s. With the Swedish trio of Gunnar Nordahl, Gunnar Gren, and Nils Liedholm putting on Milan’s red and white strips, the Rossoneri won 7 Scudetto titles, 2 European Cups and 2 Cup Winners Cups in the next two decades.
With the emergency of Juventus as the strongest team to represent Serie A at both home and abroad in the last two decades, Milan’s achievements have been forced to take a backseat. Still, while Juve has won almost twice as many Scudetto titles as Milan’s 18, the Old Lady, despite its 21st-century dominance, is some way short of matching AC Milan’s haul of seven Champions League titles.
Not many people know but the reason why AC Milan and Inter Milan share the San Siro Stadium is that both these clubs were one before March 1908. It was only when a rival faction of AC Milan, the parent club, decided that they didn’t like the way things were being run by the managed that Inter Milan, the daughter club, came into being.
However, it wasn’t hunger for more trophies but the ideology which differentiated those who ended up creating Inter from those who wanted Milan Football and Cricket Club to stay undivided. The founders of the Nerrazurri, called ‘Mutureta’ as they could afford scooters, were mostly aristocrats with a modern outlook. They believed that a strong presence of foreigners in the squad was the need of the time.
However, it wasn’t the hunger for more trophies but the ideology which differed those who ended up creating Inter from those who wanted Milan Football and Cricket Club to stay undivided. The founders of the Nerrazurri, called ‘Mutureta’ as they could afford scooters, were mostly aristocrats with a modern outlook. They believed that a strong presence of foreigners in the squad was the need of the time.
The proponents of a united AC Milan, called ‘tramvee’ as they used local public transportation, were against the inclusion of foreigners. For them, the main reason why the club existed was to represent the masses that supported it every week. Their goal, therefore, was to create a team that every native Milanese could associate with, which is why they considered the inclusion of foreigner players as antithetical to their values.
There were, therefore, two factions within the club, with both having different strengths and weaknesses. While those who ended up forming Inter had money on their side but lacked the numbers to thrust their opinion on the unwilling majority, those who stayed with AC Milan didn’t have money but they did have the numbers to make their voice heard. Consequently, with neither side willing to back down, a new club, Inter, was carved out from AC Milan on March 9, 1908.
Worst placement in the final table:
During the 1981/82 season, Milan finished at 14th place in the Serie A. With only 16 teams competing in Italy’s top tier that campaign, the Rossoneri were relegated to Serie B.
Least goals in a season:
In AC Milan’s history, no other Serie A season comes close to the 1981/82 season in this respect as the side managed to put the back in the back of opposition’s net only 21 times during the whole of that campaign.
Most goals conceded:
During the 1932/33 campaign, AC Milan conceded a whopping 62 goals in 34 Serie A games.
Worst goal difference:
After scoring only 21 and conceding 31 goals in the league, AC Milan finished the 1981/82 season with a goal difference of -10, their worst ever to date.
Least points scored:
Once again, it is the 1981/82 season which piles shame on the club as AC Milan managed to put on board a mere 24 points during the whole of that campaign.
In a full Serie A season, the Rossoneri have always managed more victories than the 5 they accumulated during the whole of the 1976/77 campaign.
During the 1930/31 season, AC Milan were defeated a record 15 times in the Serie A, though they still managed to avoid relegation by finishing 2 places off the relegation places.
Worst home record:
Given the fact that they managed to win only 5 games that season, it should be unsurprising to note that it was the 1976/77 season in which AC Milan suffered their worst home record in Serie A.
Worst away record:
Once again, it is the 1976/77 campaign which stands out in this regard. Given the fact that the club managed to put together only 5 victories during that campaign, it shouldn’t be unsurprising to figure that their away form was poor.
Today, the name of AC Milan is synonymous with greatness in the beautiful game. Having won eighteen Serie A titles, seven Supercoppa Italia’s and 5 Copa Italia’s, nobody could deny that the Rossoneri are arguably one of the greatest teams to have ever come out of Italian football. Throw into the equation their 7 Champions League titles, and not many teams can rival the club’s history.
That wasn’t the case at the start of the 1988/89 season. With memories of their involvement in the 1980 Totonero Scandal still in mind – which led to the club’s relegation, not many fans associated the club with the sides which won two European Championships in 1963 and 1969. What Milan needed, then, was another victory, and that’s exactly what they got in the shape of the 1988/89 European Cup.
Three years earlier, the club was bought by a playboy billionaire, Sylvio Berlusconi. However, the Milan-born media tycoon didn’t purchase the club to make a quick profit. His motive, instead, was to turn his favorite side into one of the most feared teams in Europe. The project he initiated in 1986, which saw the appointment of Arrigo Sacchi as the club’s manager, culminated in the 1988/89 title.
That season was a watershed moment for Milan, not least because it defeated European powerhouses Real Madrid 5-0 in the semifinal at the San Siro. That match had five different goalscorers – Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard, Gullit, Van Basten, and Roberto Donadoni – all of whom went on to become greats of the game. The final was merely a procession Milan ran riot with a 4-0 win over Steaua Bucaresti.
Twenty-six years later, Milan met one of the lowest points in its history at the same stage.
The stage, once again, was the final of the UEFA Champions League. Milan, once again, were the favorites to win the trophy. And as the referee blew the whistle for half time, the Rossoneri found themselves with a 3-goal lead, just like they did at the half time of 1988/89 Champions League final. However, from that moment on, everything was going to be drastically different for the Italian side.
Liverpool, the other team contesting in the 2005 Champions League final, were no Steaua Bucaresti. Inspired by one of the finest English midfielders of the generation in Steven Gerrard, who was also captaining the club on that day, the Reds came out after the half-time not to win the game but to salvage their reputations which were on the line with the hammering they had received in the 1st 45 minutes.
Within 10 minutes of the start of the second half, it was the reputation of Milan’s seemingly impenetrable defense which was on the line. Despite having the likes of Dida in goal and Maldini in defense, Milan conceded three times in the opening quarter of the 2nd half. With the game back level at 3-3, the match went to extra time, with the Liverpool goalkeeper winning his side their 5th Champions League title.
In 1980, AC Milan were one of the major powerhouses in both domestic and European football. Having already won 10 Serie A titles, 2 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup trophies, and 2 Champions League titles, the club’s name was stated with respect throughout the European football circuit. All that respect evaporated when the entire AC Milan side was implicated in the Totonero match-fixing scandal.
Since the late 1940s, Italians fans have two avenues to wager on football in the country. One of the ways, which is sanctioned by the Italian government, is Totocalcio – which is a state-run-pool where fans deposit their money, predict the outcome of games and win/lose money as a consequence. Everything under this arrangement is legal and protected by the law.
Totonero, however, is an illegal way of betting on games in Italy. It involves the fans going to illegal bookmakers and placing their bets on individual games. While the sheer number of games involved in Totocalcio makes it almost impossible to manipulate, the fact that fans could wager on individual games in Totonero makes it susceptible to illegal practices.
Some of the bookmakers involved in collecting wagers under the Totonero scheme contacted AC Milan players in 1980 and convinced them to throw away games in return for large sums of money. The entire criminal enterprise might have gone under the radar had two Roman shopkeepers, Massimo Cruciani and Alvaro Trinca, didn’t complain to the police that some players of the top Serie A clubs sold games for money.
As the Italian law enforcement authorities started their investigation, the sheer number of teams infested with corrupt players rocked the Italian football. Apart from AC Milan, seven other teams in the Serie A and five teams from Serie B were found guilty of throwing away games. However, when it came to handing down sentences, Milan found itself on the thin edge of the sword. The team was relegated to Serie B, its president was disbarred for life and one of its players was suspended for the game for four years.
Here are some of the fun facts you might not know about AC Milan:
“Zlatan Vs Gattuso”: Thiago Silva, one of the former AC Milan players, states that Zlatan Ibrahimovic once threw club legend Gennaro Gattuso into the bin. The Swede was unhappy over his treatment at the hands of the combative Italian and took his revenge in the dressing room after a morning training session.
“English origins”: Not many people know but Italian royalty AC Milan were actually founded by two English expatriates Herbert Kilpin and Alfred Edwards.
“Retired numbers”: Throughout their entire history, Milan have retired two shirt numbers in the honor of players who wore them. The No. 6 jersey was retired to honor Franco Baresi’s career, who is considered the club’s greatest ever defenders. The No. 3 shirt, meanwhile, has never been worn by any player since the retirement of Paolo Maldini.
“First Invincibles in Italy”: When Milan went the whole of 1991/92 campaign unbeaten in the Serie A, they became the first team in Italy to have an invincible campaign.
“Love for Ballon D’Ors”: Only two clubs – Real Madrid and Barcelona – have had more Ballon d’Or recipients in their squad than Milan. Six club legends have lifted the biggest individual award which a player could hope to get in world football.
“10 points deducted”: After their role in the 2006/07 Calciopoli match-fixing scandal came to light, Milan had ten points were deducted from their total points tally for the campaign.
“A club of three names”: While they started as Milan Cricket and Football Club in 1899, the club changed its name to Milan Football club a few years later. Come 1938, and the great Italian side got its current name: Associazione Calcio Milan.
“Change of logo”: In the summer of 2014, Milan changed its logo from the flag of the club to St. George’s Cross in a bid to modernize its icon and make it more attractive to the worldwide audience.
“Sharing their home”: Unlike any other big club in Europe, Milan share their home, the iconic San Siro stadium, with Inter Milan. The Nerazzurri came into being in 1909 after a split between then owners of Milan Cricket and Football Club, and both the clubs continue to call San Siro their home ever since.
“Fork attacks on players”: Andrea Pirlo in his book claims that there were times in his Milan career when some of his teammates missed games because they were the victims of Gannero Gatusso’s fork attacks, though the club always told the press that the reason of the absence was muscle fatigue.
Details are provided on the age of players, games played, minutes played, goals conceded, games with no goal conceded, SUbstitutions yellow cards, red cards, yellow-red cards.
Official website of AC Milan
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